If your body is a temple, your feet are the foundation. Keeping them strong and limber is a good way to stay toned overall. You don’t have to own or wear a pink tutu to benefit from ballet foot-stretching exercises with resistance bands. Bands are cheap, and it’s easy to use them at home. No pirouettes required.
For foot-stretching, the best band to use is a single-strap variety that is at least 2 inches wide and 5 feet long. Do not use tubes or loops in these exercises. Start with light resistance and build up to heavier bands. Unlike your favorite socks, if your band develops tears or holes, replace it. If you have sensitive skin or allergies, be aware that bands contain latex.
Ballet dancers have to relevé -- or rise up on their toes -- from several foot positions. You can warm up by loosening your legs with three to five minutes of grooving to your music mix, walking circles in your living room or cycling on a stationary bike. Stretch when your muscles are limber.
Start from a seated position on the floor. A yoga mat, blanket or towel is handy, but not necessary. These exercises are intended to flex and lengthen the muscles along the bottoms of your feet. They will also strengthen your ankles.
Flex and Point
Seated with your legs stretched out in front of you, wrap the band behind the tops of your feet and toes and grab the ends of the band in each hand. Pull back on the band for resistance. Start with your toes naturally upward and then point the toes of both feet forward. Flex and point simultaneously eight times. Repeat the exercise with each foot individually eight times. Finish with another round of doubles.
Seated with your right leg outstretched before you, wrap the band behind the tops of your right foot and toes. Grab both ends of the band with your left hand and pull back across your body for resistance. Wing your right foot out to the left and then move it back eight times. Repeat with your left foot.
Spread the resistance band in a line in front of your right foot. Sit down with your right knee drawn up so that your foot is flat on the floor and your toes are resting on the leading edge of the band. Using your toes as a baker would use her fingers to knead dough, grab the band and pull it to you. Spread it out again and repeat this with the left toes.
Concentrate on flexing, not curling, your toes. Think of your feet as an extension of your leg and your toes an extension of your feet. Work in lines as a whole. Lines are the secret to elegance in ballet to keep your body in balance.
- Allison Mills, Dance Instructor, Washburn, Wis.
Charli Mills has covered the natural food industry since 2001 as a marketing communications manager for a highly successful retail cooperative. She built teams, brands and strategies. She is a writer and editor of "This is Living Naturally," a consultant for Carrot Ranch Communications and a Master Cooperative Communicator.